Both lakes are considered Important Bird Areas. On the West side of Willow Lake there is a large grove of enormous, old cottonwood trees. A short trail, Cottonwood Spur, takes you a few hundred feet into the grove. A conveniently placed bench allows you to look up into the tree tops and observe dozens of Double-crested Cormorants nesting. The sounds were incredible too...we heard not only the bird calls you'd expect, but the Cormorants made strange guttural sounds that reminded me of primates. We felt like we were in a tropical jungle! I really wished I had my binoculars with me.
|Hans is dwarfed by giant cottonwoods...which are full of Double-crested Cormorant nests!
|All the birds we saw seemed to be adults in breeding plumage.
Here are three, and one small nest!
|Four nests in one shot!
|The breeding plumage is very apparent here.
Many of the nests seemed too tiny for these large birds. Perhaps they were still in building mode.
Another neat thing about these lakes is the fascinating designs on the granite rocks:
Another day we hiked the Little Granite Mountain Loop. Though the link says it's 6.7 miles, we followed those directions exactly and clocked 8.2 miles. The middle half of the trail goes through land burned in 2013, but the first and last sections are through pretty lushly covered hillsides of pine, juniper and oak.
|We're in a land studded with amazing granite boulders!
The pointy pile on the left is a feature named Lizard Head.
If you hike the Granite Mountain Trail you end up above the large granite protrusion on the right.
|These little purple flowers were flourishing in the burned landscape.
|The eerie beauty of a burnt landscape.